Comparing social, emotional, and behavioral health risks among youth attending public versus parochial schools

Tracy E. Waasdorp, Juliette Berg, Katrina J. Debnam, Elizabeth Stuart, Catherine P. Bradshaw

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Parochial schools are assumed to provide better social and academic experiences; however, few studies account for selection bias when comparing with public schools. This study contrasted public versus parochial schools using propensity score matching across a range of outcomes (e.g., perceptions of school, emotional symptoms, substance use, bullying). Using a sample of 58 public and 5 parochial high schools, the nonmatched analyses suggested a significant advantage for parochial schools students (e.g., better on 23 of 32 indicators). However, the propensity score matched analyses revealed nine differences (e.g., weapon carrying, smoking), two of which (i.e., stress and cyberbullying) favored public schools. While at first glance parochial schools generally appear to be healthier and safer learning environments, accounting for selection bias, the gap was narrowed. Students in parochial schools may struggle with issues related to social, emotional, and behavioral health risk, and thus prevention programs should also be implemented in these settings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of School Violence
StateAccepted/In press - Nov 1 2017



  • bullying
  • climate
  • private schools
  • Public schools
  • substance use

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality

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